2018 Sony Open: Waialae Country Club (1/9/18)

By Frank Brank

The Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu is the second swing of the Hawaii trip. Waialae isn't too different, in difficulty, than last week's event at the Plantation Course, but the reason for such difficulty is very different.

Unlike last week, Waialae will play much shorter and tighter as one of the toughest courses on tour to hit the fairway. However, the rough is not punishing, at all, and rarely comes into play in affecting players.

Past winners at this event are Justin Thomas, who shot 59 here last year, Fabian Gomez, Jimmy Walker (twice), and Russell Henley. The top rated players in the field are Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, who are the clearr favorites. Justin Thomas will have Jim McKay, also known as "Bones," on the bag this week as his usual caddie is suffering from an injury.

With another easy course, it's tough to take a big favorites like Spieth at +450 and Thomas at +700 given the full field event. Thomas, again, is without his typical caddie, and Spieth looked particularly yippie on short putts last week.

The most significant stats for past top ten finishers and winners at Waialae are putting and mid to long iron shots. The best putters in the field this week are Brian Harman, Kevin Kisner, Brian Gay, Zach Johnson, and Chez Reavie.

At a par 70, the most frequent approach shots will come from 150-200 yards. The top golfers in the field from 150 to 175 yards are Jordan Spieth, Kevin Na, Kyle Stanley, Justin Thomas, and Tony Finau. The top golfers in the field from 175 to 200 yards are Kyle Stanley, Jimmy Walker, Jordan Spieth, Daniel Berger, and Tony Finau.

The only player ranking inside the top ten in the field in putting and approach shots this week is Stewart Cink, who we'll take a flier on at Waialae.


As you can see above, Tony Finau can knock it tight with longer irons. According to our strokes-gained expectancy, Finau ranks seventh in the field in overall approach shots at +0.546. Finau also ranks first overall in the field in strokes-gained off-the-tee at +0.830.

Although his putting is typically miserable, and the biggest reason he doesn't rank towards the world's best golfers, there's some value in Finau in hopes he knocks enough approach shots in tight. As the 37th best putter in the field, he'll need some luck and/or improvements on the greens to win this week. That's not an unreasonable task given his ability to knock it tight at 33 to 1 odds.

Other Favorites with value in order of preference: Daniel Berger (+3300), Webb Simpson (+3300)

Long Shots

If you are committed to combining mid iron play and putting this week, Chez Reavie at 50 to 1 odds is your guy. Reavie, a relatively unknown player on tour, has been gaining up the shots-gained leaderboard over the last few months. In his first five tournaments of the 2018 wrap-around season, Reavie has finished T13, T17, T15, T24, and T14.

He's been a regular on tour since 2008, but he's only come away with one victory in a decade. However, you can see his game, and advanced statistics, coming together for an easier tournament/field like the one he'll be faced with this week. Not to mention, the course fits Reavie's game as well as a course will this season.

Chez ranks 23rd in shots-gained off-the-tee, 16th on approach shots, and 5th in putting. So far this season, he's hit 75.4% of fairways, and ranks 6th overall on approaches from 125 to 150 yards, 6th from 150 to 175 yards, and 20th from 175 to 200 yards. His one knock is chipping where he ranks 41st overall in the field; however, there isn't much to worry about this week given how difficult it will be to actually miss greens.

Players similar to Reavie's profile tend to play well at Waialae Country Club and there's better than 50 to 1 odds he comes away with his first victory in a decade this week.

Other Long Shots with value in order of preference: Kyle Stanley (+6600), Luke List (+8000), Stewart Cink (+12500)